By Felix Kassim
The Nigeria Export Processing Zones Authority (NEPZA) says free trade zones in the country will maximise opportunities presented by COVID-19 in trade and manufacturing sectors.
The acting Managing Director, NEPZA, Mr Bitrus Dawuk, said the pandemic presented both challenges and opportunities for free trade zones across the world.
He said the opportunities are mostly in the area of International trade and production as most manufacturers around the world were looking to diversify the supply chains to meet the present demands.
Dawuk stated this in a presentation at Webinar online conference organized by a Dubai-based free zone training and management consulting company, CTP International FZLEE, for selected industry experts across the world.
A statement signed by Mr Martins Odeh, Head, Corporate Communications, NEPZA and made available to newsmen in Abuja on Monday, said Dawuk assured that free zones in the country would leverage on the COVID-19 opportunities.
In the presentation titled ‘Seeking New Frontier for Repositioning NEPZA for Maximum Investor Attraction and Retention in the Post Covid-19 Era’, Dawuk said NEPZA is prepared to cash in on the prevailing business environment by developing robust actionable plans to reposition the country’s free zone for maximum investor attraction and retention in post covid-19 and Brexit era.
“NEPZA has identified two major opportunities presented by covid-19: the first is inward production, involving a change in sectoral focus in favour of agro-allied and healthcare, while the second is in the global and regional value and supply chain, involving manufacturing and supply of capital goods to other African countries,’’ Dawuk said.
The NEPZA boss commended President Muhammadu Buhari for his commitment toward ensuring effective and efficient management of the country’s free zone scheme for speedy national economic recovery and growth.
He expressed delight over the president’s special interest to ensure the scheme surmounted all prevailing challenges so as to leverage on the opportunities provided by the scheme to accelerate attraction of Foreign Direct l Investment (FDI) into the country.
Dawuk, however, said he was not surprised by Buhari’s support for NEPZA and the entire operations of free zone in the country, adding that the Federal Government’s former subtle reservation toward the sector changed when the president made a state visit to China to have an on the spot assessment of Chinese free zone model.
He said the Authority had enjoyed some considerable increase of budgetary allocation since the president discovered the need to support the sector to perform optimally, stressing that the president’s exposure to the Chinese free zone scheme had positively robbed off positively on NEPZA and the country free zone as a whole.